Three images from ‘You Look At Me Like An Emergency’
Cig Harvey’s ‘You look at me like an emergency’ long-term project explores the identity of herself using auto-portraits as well as photographs of other people (usually young females) as a representation of herself. The project focuses on the artist’s feelings and experiences and presents it in a way that makes the image both, intimate and mystic at the same time. The aesthetics of the image create emotions that are very personal, yet quite understandable as we all go through hard times in life.
The project is divided into three acts that create an idea of a journey. In Act I, all photographs are self-portraits. The first two images on the previous page are from Act I. This part of the project explores the very personal and intimate journey of examining and understanding oneself.
Act II of the project uses a number of self-portraits, however focuses mainly on photographs of other young women and girls. The second act highlights the artist’s view of herself and how she is able to see and portray her own persona in others. The third image from a previous page is from Act II and presents the viewer with a photograph of a young girl with a porcelain skin wearing a white dress and holding a bird house (?) while being surrounded by greenery and fireflies. The image creates a very innocent atmosphere. All factors from the model’s hair and skin to the time of the day the photograph was taken were thought through to present the viewer with this image. However, the photograph seems to have a double meaning as the pure innocence of the girl suggests she is in danger due to the aesthetics of the photograph. This image can suggest the artist’s feeling of being too naïve for this world.
Act III contains of images of others, self-portraits as well as photographs of the artist WITH others. It is the first part of the project where and interaction between the humans is seen. It creates a sense of belongings, as if the subject is no longer alone in this world and her fear and anxiety are no longer stopping her from forming relationships between humans. She is no longer that neither young innocent girl nor a meek young woman, but a confident lady.
The Fundamental Loneliness,1999;
Elina Brotherus deals with the issues of loneliness, subjective experiences, emptiness and vulnerability throughout most of her work. The artist often focuses her work on personal experiences creating a work that acts as a cry for help as well as a therapy at the same time.
The first photograph is from one of her more recent series ‘Annunciation’ that deals with her very personal experience of infertility. Brotherus, for a number of years, have tried the IV treatment to get pregnant. However, the treatment was failing over and over again which strongly affected Brotherus’ mental stage. She has created the series to reminisce on those experiences, raise her voice about the problem as well as allow herself to look at it from another perspective – as, looking through the camera lens or on a photograph, does.
In the image, the artist is seen sat on the sofa, looking straight into the camera. The aesthetics of the image have been thought through as the symmetry as well as the placement of the subject are compelling. Her facial expression signifies the mental state of the artist – low-spirited, gloomy and depressed; it seems as if she gave up. Although the image is staged, the fact that it tells the story of her present experiences, the expression does not seem staged at all.
The artist has taken the images in her own house to make the project more personal and meaningful. The series allows the viewer to understand Brotherus’ experiences and what she was going through at the moment of the photograph being taken. It also highlights the fact that physical experiences can strongly affect the mental health of anyone.
The second image is from the ‘The Girl that Spoke of Love’ (Das Mädchen sprach von Liebe) series. This particular series explores the artist’s vulnerability and lack of love in her life. This particular image is a self-portrait that showcases the artist’s mental breakdown. She is sitting at the table over, what we can assume, is her meal. However, instead of a happy family photograph or a simple image of eating, we can see Brotherus crying over the bowl. The title ‘The Fundamental Loneliness’ suggests that the subject is crying due to being lonely and it seems to be an everyday, fundamental experience for her. This photograph emphasizes the fact that, someone who seems normal on everyday basis, may not necessarily be alright on the inside. The photograph reminds the viewer that people who are alone are more vulnerable, not only towards others, but especially towards themselves and their own minds.
Three images from ‘Orphee’
‘Tokyo Rumando works right at the edge of the slippery boundary between the sexualisation of the female form in Japanese photography and the rising wave of so-called ‘Girlie photographers’ in Japan. Although historically there have been relatively few famous women photographers in Japan, Rumando’s generation have taken over the dark, eroticised imagery associated with the work of male photographers like Nobuyoshi Araki, to produce their own visions of sexuality and intimacy that challenge gender boundaries. Rumando’s work plays fast and loose the clichés of erotic photography through the use of her own body, posed to express both her own fantasies and to suggest those that she imagines projected onto her by others’[i]
Rumando’s work revolves around identity and performance. She creates personas in the studio using costumes, make-up and props. Her photographs are on the edgy of controversy as she portrays herself (or the females she impersonates as) in a very sexual way in most of her work. However, it is not about the way she wants to be portrayed, but about the way the society portrays women.
All the images are from the ‘Orphee’ series where the artist presents herself as other characters in front of the mirror. In the first image, the artist is wearing a black wig and looking straight into the camera with an over the shoulder look which positions the viewer in front of the camera almost as if the subject caught the photographer lurking at her. It can be visible in the mirror that the subject is only wearing lingerie which emphasizes the sexualisation of women even more.
In the next image, the artist is impersonating Marilyn Monroe, who was famous for not necessarily caring for her image and working against the social norm at the time, presenting herself, as strong and independent; but promiscuous woman. The artist has decided to portray the famous actress on purpose to further emphasize the sexualisation of females in today’s society.
The last photograph varies slightly from the previous ones as the reflection on the mirror is not of the character that is standing in front of it. This manipulation was done to emphasize that females are often seen differently to who they really are, often judged only based on their looks. The photograph focuses on the difficulties and struggles that can be seen in the facial expressions of both of the women visible in the image.
The work as a whole is purely performative as the artist performed as different people highlighting their characteristics to emphasize the point and meaning of the project.
Two images from ‘i Of The Beholder’
Benjamin’s ‘i Of The Beholder’ series focuses on women diagnosed with breast cancer and brings to attention the struggles that these women have to go through. Using performative portraitures, the artist photographed herself as well as other women in the studio. The project started out as a personal theme for the artist’s struggles with the disease and soon became a way of phototherapy for herself and many of her subjects. The subjects were all breast cancer patients, some still being in the process of treatment, some after operation and some that have been living with it for a long time. The series has been created to emphasize the trauma caused to these women by breast cancer. The artist herself said that people are becoming more and more aware of the disease itself, but the emotional and physical loss that the women go through are left unnoticed.
The subjects performed in front of the camera using their bodies and allowing them to embrace their insecurities. Many of the subject said that they have never fell so confident about their bodies and the shoot allowed them to accept themselves the way they were. These statements prove that the series worked as a phototherapy for the subjects and suggests that a personal, bodily performance in front of the camera, allows one to embrace, understand and accept themselves.
The portraits show the emotions that the subjects went through and allow the viewer to understand, or at least become closer to understanding what it feels like to have breast cancer, and the journey these women go through to be able to accept themselves again.
Overall, the series worked in a photo-therapeutic way for the subjects, as well as a statement for the viewers. People that have breast cancer are able to view to images and feel empowered in belief that they are not alone. The series would also allow those who suffer from other physical or mental problems to feel free to express themselves, by themselves, and for themselves.
Images from ‘A Visual Depiction Of Mental Disorders’
Sampson is a young, passionate photography student who specialises in wedding photography. He is also a lover of fine art photography. On his website, above the ‘Fine Art’ section, he wrote: “As fun as shooting weddings and portraits is and as much as I enjoy it, sometimes I need to let out the contemporary artist in me. I love compositing and the power that it can have on viewers. These images below I just let my imagination and dreams run wild. I hope you like what you see!”[i]
This particular series is quite recent as it was posted online in January this year, and with the power of social media, gained a global recognition allowing the artist to reach 11 million views on his Facebook page. Sampson was owed that this particular series became so popular and is in a process of creating ‘Part 2’ of the project.
The series gained recognition not by accident, as it is a series that deals with a number of mental disorders and; with the collaboration of a number of people that suffered from these as well as long research; successfully portraits the disorders in a performative images that deal with the emotions and struggles that are not visible outside of the person’s mind.
The first photograph is titled ‘Depression’ and pictures the struggles of a person that suffers from this particular disorder. The photograph of a girl drowning emphasizes the problem of wanting to get up, wanting to go on and live, but being strangled and constantly pushed down by fears and personal demons. The feeling of drowning in the negative thoughts and not being able to rise up has been captivated perfectly by the young photographer.
The second photograph is titled ‘Anxiety’ and portrays the thoughts and emotions of the one struggling to function adequately due to the disorder. The subject expresses the struggles in a performative way collaborating with the photographer’s editing skills. In the photograph, a girl is turned away from the camera, not willing to show her face, leaning and banging onto the wall. A common problem of people with anxiety is not being able to face oneself or others. Anxiety does not allow the sufferer to want to go into the world, but constantly stops them from confrontation. The thoughts of a person with anxiety are portrayed by the black strings (?) all over the wall. The thoughts of a person with anxiety are tangled, trying to overtake the body by suffocating it with negative, irrational thoughts creating problems that do not exist. All that is happening in one’s head, which is represented by the wall. The strings are powerful enough to break through the wall and destroy the world around the subject; just like the thoughts are powerful enough to break through to the person’s mentality, emotions and actions, destroying the world for the sufferer and overtaking the ‘normal’ by the irrational.
Overall, the series is a very successful pictorial representation of a number of mental disorders and deals with very personal struggles of the sufferers allowing the viewer to picture what it feels like to be mentally ill and bringing to attention the problems of mental diseases and the way our society often does not accept them as ‘real’ since ‘it is all in our heads’ and we should just ‘get over it’.